Working abroad: which countries in Europe have the highest minimum wage?

Working abroad: which countries in Europe have the highest minimum wage?

If you were to list the top 10 countries with the highest minimum wage in the world, seven of those would be in Europe. However, the concept of a minimum wage first originated on the other side of the globe. New Zealand was the groundbreaker in implementing a minimum wage law, doing so in 1894, in an attempt to raise the average income of unskilled workers.

A minimum wage is the lowest wage per hour that is allowed by law or special agreement, and it varies all over the world. Most countries across Europe, with the exception of ​​Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Italy, Cyprus and Austria, enforce a national minimum wage. The countries with the highest minimum wages in Europe also tend to have strong social support programs, with the intention of allowing workers of all skill levels to work and live without being impoverished.

If you plan to move to Europe to live and work, it’s a good idea to be aware of how much you can expect to earn. It’s also good to be aware that CurrencyFair lets you send and receive money within Europe at exchange rates that are up to eight times cheaper than the banks, saving you money when it’s time to transfer your savings or purchase property abroad.

Learn moreCheck out our guide to international money transfers for more on how to save money when you’re transferring money abroad. But which countries have the highest minimum wage in Europe in 2021, and how often are they updated? Read on to find out.

Country

National minimum wage per hour (highest available, based on the legal working week which varies from 36 - 40 hours per country)

Minimum wage per month 

Luxembourg

€15.27

€2,642.32

Ireland

€10.20

€1,724.00

Netherlands

€9.72

€1,701.00

Belgium

€10.70

€1,625.72

Germany

€9.60

€1,585.00

France

€10.25

€1,554.58

Spain

€7.04

€1,108.30

Slovenia

€6.40

€1,024.24

Malta

€4.53

€784.08

Portugal 

€4.16

€775.80

Figures accurate as of September 2021.

shirota-yuri-umsmLWESOrk-unsplash

The minimum wage in Luxembourg in 2021

Luxembourg has the highest minimum wage in Europe, and it’s adjusted every two years in line with the evolution of Luxembourg’s cost of living. Meaning if the consumer price index rises by a certain percentage, salaries are adjusted by the same percentage. As of September 2021, it was €12.73 per hour for all workers aged 18 or older. For adolescent workers, aged 17-18 years old, it is €10.18 per hour and for those aged 15-17 years old, it’s ​​€9.55 per hour. For skilled workers, this goes up to €15.27 per month. To be considered a skilled worker, and entitled to the higher minimum wage in Luxembourg, the employee must have at least one of the following:

  • A recognised official certificate equivalent to a vocational skills certificate.

  • A vocational diploma from a Luxembourg technical secondary school.

  • A manual skills certificate.

  • A certificate of vocational ability and proof of at least two years of experience in the trade in question.

  • A preliminary technical and vocational certificate and proof of at least five years of practical experience in the trade or profession.

  • In the absence of a certificate, proof of at least 10 years practical professional experience (if a certificate exists for the required qualification).

  • Proof of at least six years practical experience in a trade or profession which requires certain technical skills and where no official certificate is issued after vocational training.

gabriel-ramos-e5TrgQeYOKo-unsplash

The minimum wage in Ireland in 2021

Ireland has the second-highest minimum wage in Europe at €10.20 per hour for adult skilled workers (classified as someone aged 20 years or older), with some exclusions. For adolescent workers that are younger than 18 years of age, it is €7.14 per hour, which goes up to €8.16 per hour at age 18 and €9.18 per hour at age 19. Certain categories of employees are excluded from the national minimum wage in Ireland, including:

  • Employees who are close relatives of the employer, where the employer is a Sole Trader.

  • A craft apprentice within the meaning of the Industrial Training Act, 1967, or the Labour of Services Act, 1987.

netherlands

The minimum wage in the Netherlands in 2021

The Netherlands has the third-highest minimum wage in Europe, and it is adjusted twice a year in line with changes in average collectively agreed wages in the Netherlands. As of July 2021, the minimum wage for an adult aged 21 or older is €1,701 per month.

The minimum wage in the Netherlands starts at age 15 and is increased on a yearly basis until the employee has reached 21 years of age and older. It’s set as a monthly rate rather than an hourly wage as “the number of hours in a working week can differ from one business to another”, and generally ranges from 36 to 40 hours a week. However, the Netherlands government has provided guidance for the hourly minimum wage as an indicative resource. The table below shows the gross hourly wage for each age group as of 1 July 2021:

netherlands_minimum_wage

Source: Government of the Netherlands.

thomas-konings-CQ0NJ_YA2nA-unsplash

The minimum wage in Belgium in 2021

Belgium has the fourth-highest minimum wage in Europe, as well as a set legal working week of 38 hours, with exceptions provided for certain industries. The national minimum wage in Belgium is €1,625.72 per month, but certain industries also have their own set minimum wages.

The minimum wage in Belgium is decided both at a government level and through collective agreements by individual industries within their sectors. Based on this, the exact minimum wage for your position can differ based on your role, where the job is based, your experience and the hours you work per week, but it can never be lower than the national minimum wage.

ansgar-scheffold-mtfTz0FnwBw-unsplash

The minimum wage in Germany in 2021

Germany has the fifth-highest minimum wage in Europe at €9.60 per hour for all employees over the age of 18. The minimum wage is updated every two years based on the recommendations of the ​​Minimum Wage Commission, a group that is newly appointed every five years with volunteers consisting of a chairperson, six permanent members with voting rights and two advisory members chosen from the scientific community who do not have voting rights in the Commission.

However, certain groups are not considered to be employees in Germany under the terms of the Minimum Wage Act. Those include:

  • Trainees under the provisions of the Vocational Training Act.

  • Individuals performing voluntary work or undertaking voluntary service.

  • Participants in an employment promotion measure.

  • Self-employed individuals.

  • Long-term unemployed within the first six months of reintegration in the labour market.

chris-karidis-PIOqHJG5a1U-unsplash

The minimum wage in France in 2021

France clocks in with the sixth-highest minimum wage in Europe in 2021, at €10.25 per hour. Although it has a higher hourly rate than some of the countries on this list, it also has a legal working week of 35 hours which equates to a monthly minimum wage of €1,554.58.

The French minimum wage, known as “Salaire Moyen Interprofessionnel de Croissance” (SMIC) in France, is covered under French Labour Law and is adjusted every year on 1 January. However, certain groups are not entitled to the full national minimum wage, including:

  • Employees under 17 years old with less than six months of professional experience - they can be paid 80% of the legal minimum wage.

  • Employees between 17 and 18 years of age, with professional experience - they can be paid 90% of the minimum wage.

  • Apprentices can receive anything between 27% and 100% of the minimum wage, depending on their age and level of experience.

  • Interns can be unpaid but should receive an expense allowance. If the duration of the internship is greater than two months, the employer must pay the intern a minimum of €3.90 per hour or €591.49 per month for a full-time internship.

johan-mouchet-Z95viY3WaZs-unsplash

The minimum wage in Spain in 2021

Spain has the seventh-highest minimum wage in Europe in 2021, at €7.04 per hour. While Spain’s current minimum wage, referred to in Spain as the “Salario Mínimo Interprofesional” (SMI), is set at €1,108.3 per month, in reality, this is paid out to most workers at €950 per month. This is thanks to the Spanish system of paying two extra paycheques in July and December.

The legal full-time workweek in Spain is 40 hours. Unlike the minimum wage in many other European countries, every worker, regardless of their age, gender, or employment contract, is entitled to the SMI in Spain. For part-time workers, the Spanish minimum wage is half of the total value of the SMI.

The minimum wage in Spain has increased rapidly over the past two decades, growing almost 60% between 2000 and 2021 from €600 per month to €950 per month. Like Belgium, many industries in Spain have their own set minimum wages operating under collective agreements which entitle their workers to a higher minimum wage.

arnaud-steckle-34RmaD-jVbY-unsplash

The minimum wage in Slovenia in 2021

Slovenia has the eighth-highest minimum wage in Europe, at €1,024.24 per month for all full-time workers. The full-time working week in Slovenia is 40 hours, although in industries with an increased risk of injury or health-related problems this can be reduced to less than 36 hours per week.

An amendment to the Minimum Wage Act in Slovenia in 2018 brought a number of changes to how the national minimum wage was approached in the country, including introducing a new formula to calculate the minimum wage in 2021. The minimum wage in Slovenia must exceed the minimum cost of living calculated using the new formula by at least 20%, but not more than 40%.

nick-fewings-dWK5VEPIVwk-unsplash

The minimum wage in Malta in 2021

Malta has the ninth-highest minimum wage in Europe in 2021, at €181.08 per week for full-time workers aged 18 and older. The minimum wage for 17-year-old workers in Malta is €174.30 per week, and for those younger than 17 years old, it is €171.46 per week.

In addition to the national minimum wage in Malta, workers are entitled to salary increases once they have been with the same employer for more than one year. After one year, workers are entitled to an extra €3 per week throughout their second year of employment, and then an additional €3 per week again once they’ve worked for the same employer for more than two years.

Various industries have their own minimum wages as agreed through Wage Regulation Orders (WRO) which can be found here in further detail.

vita-marija-murenaite-Bg8atM-RVuw-unsplash

The minimum wage in Portugal in 2021

Portugal has the tenth-highest minimum wage in Europe at €775.8 per month (€9,310 euros per year) if they were to be paid over 12 payments per year. However, like Spain, Portugal has 14 salaries per year, paid out monthly with an extra salary for summer holidays and Christmas allowances. At the 14-month per year rate, the national minimum wage in Portugal is €665.00 per month. All full-time workers older than 18 years of age are entitled to the Portuguese minimum wage, but employers are entitled to reduce this by 20% for apprentices.

There are three official minimum wages in Portugal, with a different minimum wage for the Azores and Madeira regions. The minimum wage in the Autonomous Region of Azores is €698 per month, and it is €682 per month in the Autonomous Region of Madeira.

About CurrencyFair

CurrencyFair offers secure money transfers to over 150 countries and over 20 currencies. If you plan to move to Europe to live and work, CurrencyFair lets you send and receive money within Europe (and around the world) at exchange rates that are up to eight times cheaper than the banks, saving you money when it’s time to transfer your savings or purchase property abroad.
You can choose to send money immediately with our quick, low-cost money transfers, or set your own rate on our marketplace, and wait for the market to meet it — meaning you could even beat the currency market rate that you see online.

Join over 170,000 happy customers who have saved millions with CurrencyFair.

Learn more

Photos by Shirota Yuri, Dimitry Anikin, Gabriel Ramos, Thomas Konings, Ansgar Scheffold, Omid Armin, Chris Karidis, Johan Mouchet, Arnaud STECKLE, Nick Fewings, Vita Marija Murenaite on Unsplash.